NEW DELHI: The University Grants Commission (UGC) has decided to discontinue non-NET fellowships for MPhil and PhD students at central universities from the next academic session, triggering protests by student groups who have termed it “one of the biggest anti-student moves” of the NDA government.
The All India Students Association (AISA) read in the decision a sinister move to make the public education system compliant with the impending WTO-GATS (World Trade Organisation-General Agreement on Trade in Services) under which India has made an offer to open up higher education commercially by classifying it as a tradable service. There is widespread demand for the offer to be revoked.
“This is nothing but another step in the BJP-led central government’s series of moves to cut budgetary allocation and restructure higher education to make it inaccessible and destroy its quality . Once the government confirms this, it will be necessary to cut subsidies provided to government-funded universities. The WTO regime necessitates a level playing field for Indianforeign and publicprivate institutes,” AISA national president Sucheta De said.
Till now, the UGC granted scholarships of Rs 5,000 a month for MPhil students and Rs 8,000 a month to PhD students.”The scholarship is a lifeline for students in all central universities. If this is discontinued, it will be impossible for a vast majority of students to engage in research and knowledge creation,” said AISA’s Ashutosh Kumar.
AISA sees all the recent reforms by the NDA government in higher education -choice-based credit system, semesterisation and the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan -as steps taken with an eye on the WTO negotiations slated to be held in Nairobi this December.
The Democratic Students Federation also termed the move as a “cruel joke” on students and has planned protests by burning effigies of UGC chairman Ved Prakash.